I looks like Nicholas Negroponte and his One-LapTop-per-Child (OLPC) will indeed succeed to give everybody in Brazil, India and Africa a fully functional, wirelessly connected $100 (or less) computer. You may have not thought about it this way before, but imagine another 250 Million nicely networked computers aka copy machines given to people who have had no previous access to those large media libraries that us bit-torrent fans take for granted, and who may have never heard of our traditional ‘western’ copyright ideas (or better… regimes) before.
What is likely to happen here, and how will the media sector suffer or benefit from this, but first and foremost – how will the CREATORS of all that media content benefit from this? Clearly, we can forget the unit-base ‘copy’ paradigm here – nobody in India and China will be able to afford this, and those illicit libraries of most media content will continue to grow even faster. I believe that the only way we can remunerate the creators (never mind the middlemen, i.e. the publishers or the people fka distributors) is to indeed offer all-in, flat rate access to media content – starting with Music (and don’t you know it – just today UMG is in the press announcing something like a ‘TotalMusic’ initiative for ISPs?)
The flat-fee-included libraries would need to be quite substantial but lots of opportunities for smart upsells could be build-in as well – if you have a good reason to charge a premium, you will still get it since the user is already just a click away from it. And he knows you and you know him (trust!) so despite the fact that, yes, your premium content will also be available for free somewhere out in cyberspace, you can still make a sale here – provided the real and perceived value is there, and the value-benefits ratio is clean.
Cool me a utopian (as some people have) but I think this is the best thing that can happen to media since the invention of the printing press: ubiquitous access and ubiquitous monetizing. All it needs is for the creators and their representatives to do the math: charging for copies is now the SECOND step (i.e. the upsell) – charging for access is FIRST.
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